Two hundred and thirty five days have passed since the pandemic-led lockdowns began in this country. It is as though a whole variety of life lessons have gotten compressed into these months of the pandemic – from personal to professional.
Tonight, India is celebrating Diwali. The festival, by all measures, sounds and appears different. The erosion of lives, livelihoods and spirit of the people is striking. The migration of people from the cities to their hometowns in rural areas continued right through the pandemic. There has been no work to be found. Small businesses and daily wage earners have had no choice but to sit these days out in their homes, where at least they can huddle together with their families. Moreover, once they move back to their homes, wherever that may be, there is a sense of security that at least they will not starve. Food will come by from somewhere. In their home states, they can access the public distribution system for food easily and survive.
In the time since May of this year, I have spent time in both, a big city as well as a small town. The rural insights gathered via farming and access to the village where the farm is located leaves very little hope about India’s recovery from this pandemic’s effect in the near term. It will be a long drawn effort. The long tail of effects of the pandemic have only begun.
At this stage of the pandemic where the world has gotten used to daily deaths from Covid-19 and with crushing economic crises, it seems as though there’s no prediction, modelling or estimation has had the ability to predict how the pandemic has unfolded or will in the future.
Going into the months ahead, there could be much more lives at risk and heaps of economic misery to endure. It seems a grim outlook. But it will not be an easy task to climb out of this for a lot many of us who have not had savings or stable, well paying jobs.
I would like to be optimistic and share the evening’s sentiment of hope and prosperity. But then the immediate environment makes itself felt and one begins to notice the dull marketplaces, streets teeming with hawkers and hordes of underpaid and underemployed workers in the countryside. Can I not see the brighter side? I can. I do hear sounds of crackers that people with money to spare would have bought. There also are families who have managed to bunker up and not emerge all through these pandemic months, with the ability to sit out the pandemic for however long it lasts. But those are not the ones I see on the streets. Those are not the ones i share spaces with. Nor are they the entirety of us.
Tonight, this entry is to mark the passage of these days. That we are still going through this disruption that has hit us. And, I hope we emerge as better versions of ourselves, on the other side of it. That is, if we survive.